1 – Man’s Need Presented
Throughout the Scriptures the shedding of blood is shown to be indispensable in making atonement for man’s sin.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement (Leviticus 17:11).
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).
There is no atonement without blood. There is no salvation apart from the blood of God’s required sacrifice. In spite of the fact that infidels and unbelievers have branded the doctrine of Blood Atonement as a “slaughterhouse religion” and a “theology of the shambles,” the statement of the Word of God stands: “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Our opening verse in Leviticus 17:11 says that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” This has never been disproven. That mysterious thing we call life is resident in the blood of the organism. Remove the blood and death ensues. Stop the circulation of the blood and the organism dies. This is an inviolable law of nature.
Just as the life (physical life) is in the blood, so too spiritual life is in the blood. The Bible is a book of blood, and indeed may be called the “bloody book.” We make no apologies for that statement, for the Bible stands or falls with the blood which courses through its entire body of revelation. In one unbroken stream it flows from Genesis to Revelation. If you want to do away with the Bible, just take out the blood. For the life of the Book is in the blood.
FIRST SHEDDING OF BLOOD
The fountain of blood was opened first in the book of Genesis, where almost immediately after man had sinned God revealed that the only redemption is in the shedding of blood. In Genesis 3:21, after man had made one futile attempt to atone for his sin by the work of his own hands, as he sewed fig leaves together for a covering, God came to him, and we read:
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).
This is the first indirect reference to blood in the Bible for the skins of the animals could not be obtained without their death and the shedding of their blood. An innocent victim must die to make a covering for man’s sin. From here on, the line of blood never stops. It shows up again in the next chapter, where God accepts Abel’s sacrifice of blood but rejects Cain’s offering because it contained no blood. We see it in Noah’s sacrifices, and in the slaying of the ram by Abraham in place of his son Isaac in Genesis 22. We meet it in the blood required in the book of Exodus as God led Israel out of Egypt under the blood and made that classic fundamental statement:
…when I see the blood I will pass over you (Exodus 12:13).
The book of Leviticus is steeped in blood as God gives the ritual for the numerous sacrifices of the burnt offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offerings. We trace it through Numbers and Deuteronomy, through the Psalms and the Prophets, until the fountain of blood bursts forth in all its fullness on the hill called Calvary, where the perfect Lamb of God, Jehovah’s own sacrifice, hangs bleeding and dying upon the cross to “make an atonement for our souls.” From His hands and His feet flows the cleansing blood, His back is crimson, while from each piercing thorn in His brow oozes the blood, the precious blood which is our only hope of reconciliation with God. In the words of Isaac Watts’ immortal hymn we can contemplate the meaning and importance of Christ’s blood shed on Calvary.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
His dying, crimson like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.
Yes, the Bible is the bloody Book, and when we see the redeemed in the very last book of the Bible, we still hear them singing about the blood.
To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood (Rev. 1:5).
The Bible is the only book that claims for itself that it is a living book. In Hebrews 4:12 we read, “For the word of God is living, and active…” (Hebrews 4:12). The reason it is a living book, a book capable of imparting life to dead men, is because of the blood. So we repeat, take the blood out of the Bible, and you reduce it to a powerless, ridiculous, and despicable conglomeration of lies. To accept the Scriptures is to accept the blood.
ATONEMENT BY BLOOD
The only way, therefore, in which satisfaction could be made to the outraged holiness of God was by the shedding of blood. Now follow this scriptural argument: The wages of sin is DEATH. The only remedy for death is LIFE. The life is in the blood; therefore, the only remedy for death is by the shedding of the blood of another to provide the life which according to God is in the blood. The whole matter of the atonement by blood, then, is not a gory superstition as unbelievers say, but the most logical, reasonable thing in all the world.
To understand God’s method of salvation through blood atonement, we must first of all define what the word “atonement” means in the Bible. Until we have a clear idea of what we are talking about, nothing we can say will make any sense. Much of the confusion among Christians in this shallow, superficial age is the result of too many people talking about things they themselves don’t understand. So let us be clear on the definition of “atonement.”
Two words in the Bible express the real meaning of this doctrine. One is the Old Testament word “atonement,” and the other is the New Testament counterpart, “reconciliation.” The English word “atonement” is not found in the New Testament, although it does occur in the King James Version in Romans 5:11 as a mistranslation. The word here should be “reconciliation” instead of “atonement.” It is thus translated in the other passages where the Greek word katalasso is used. However, the word “atonement” appears many times in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the emphasis is upon the METHOD of God’s atonement by blood, while in the New Testament the EFFECT or result of the atonement is always emphasized.
The doctrine of the atonement is so rich, so deep in its meaning that it is impossible to explain it in a few words. We will give you a few definitions that have been put forth.
Webster defines “atonement” as follows:
Reparation or satisfaction offered or made in return for injury; expiation of wrong or sin by suffering; the recompense for sin typified by the sufferings and death of Christ; reconciliation.
This dictionary definition is helpful indeed, but it does not go all the way theologically or Scripturally. Theologically, we may define “the atonement” as, “that plan of God, designed in eternity, revealed in type in the Old Testament, and consummated and accomplished at Calvary, whereby a holy God and guilty sinner could be made friends again, instead of remaining enemies.” Here is another definition: “The atonement is that provision of God which He made by the death of His Son and the shedding of His blood, whereby undeserving sinners might again be accepted perfect and complete in the family of God.” One more: “The atonement is the aspect of the work of Christ whereby satisfaction was made to God for the sin which separated God and man.”
BY NATURE, WE ARE ENEMIES
From these definitions you will see that God and man were at enmity (hostility; hatred) with each other. There could be no reconciliation, no peace until the wrong was corrected, and the barrier which separated man and God was removed. Since man had become a sinner, and God’s holiness absolutely prohibited Him from having anything to do with sin, this separation had to be resolved. The price of this atonement was the blood, and the result of the atonement is the restoration of peace between God and man. Reconciliation is thereby effected.
Probably the simplest definition of “atonement” is obtained when we simply break the English word into its three syllables. The first syllable is A-T (at), the second O-N-E (one), and the last is M-E-N-T (ment). We then have AT-ONE-MENT, God’s method of making God and man one and at peace.
THE NECESSITY OF ATONEMENT
Having seen what the atonement means, we inquire as to the WHY of the atonement. What was the necessity of demanding the death of His own beloved Son before God would be reconciled to man? This brings us to the very bedrock of the plan of salvation. There are two reasons why God demanded such an awful price for man’s redemption: (1) the awesome holiness of God, and (2) the awfulness of man’s sin.
No one can understand the atonement nor become the recipient of salvation until he knows something of the holiness of God and His hatred for sin. God is first of all infinitely righteous, just, and holy; so holy, in fact, that even though He is also infinite compassion and love, He cannot and will not allow a single sin to go unpunished. God is so holy, and He hates sin with such a perfect hatred that He will not allow a single being in His presence without an atonement for all his sin. Sad, indeed, that we hear so little in these days about the holiness of God. We hear much of His love and compassion, but very little of His holiness and justice. As a result of this silence concerning God’s holiness, people have forced a mean, low, and cheap conception of God and fail to respect His holiness. They speak lightly about the Bible and God, joking about holy things and singing frivolous songs about Bible characters that reduce the whole revelation to the realm of fiction and superstition.
In the humble Christian home where I grew up, we were taught that no subject in the entire Bible should ever be used or spoken of except in deepest reverence. Never were we allowed to make light of sacred things – no, not even of the devil. But how different it is today! We have lost our sense of the holiness of God and His Word. We joke and tell stories about Bible characters. Christians seem to be entertained by silly, fun-making preachers, and singers often do not sense the holiness of the message they are communicating. How regrettable that in this age there is so much frivolous, light, and irreverent handling of the holy things of God. Even some church music has degenerated to such low levels, copying the stylings and patterns of the world. The empty phrases, repeated over and over, leave us with no spiritual depth but just a shallow, fleeting emotion. We have lost much of the reverence for holy things because of the reckless use of this kind of entertainment. Give me the good old gospel hymns with a message, with Bible truth and eternal values clearly presented. That is why we never sing anything on Radio Bible Class programs unless a definite spiritual message is conveyed by the song. This makes music worthwhile and honoring to the Lord.
In this lesson we cannot go into the other factor that necessitated the atonement, the fact of SIN. We will give due attention to that matter in our next message, but now let me again emphasize that we are dealing with a holy God who cannot condone sin. All of us are sinners and therefore can never stand in God’s presence without a covering for our sin. This covering, this atonement provided by God through Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, was proven and made effective by Christ’s resurrection from the dead on the third day.
It will be terrible for those who reject this offer to have to stand before the holy God by-and-by. In the book of Revelation, we read of the rejecters of our Lord as they behold the face of a holy God:
…the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’ (Revelation 6:15-17)
Oh, my friend, fall down before that holy God now and claim the blood of the atonement before you cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall on you. God help you to receive His offer of salvation now.
2 – The Awful Price of Sin
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:8-11).
These verses from Romans 5 constitute one of the great, majestic passages of Scripture, for they set before us in a nutshell the whole basis of the plan of redemption. They contain three words of such importance that all the language of man cannot exhaust their meaning. These words are “justified,” “reconciled,” and “atonement.” We pointed out that “atonement” and “reconciliation” tell us of the mighty plan whereby poor, lost, hell-bound, guilty sinners can be justified in the sight of Almighty God.
SIN MADE US ENEMIES
By nature, all men are the enemies of God, no matter how religious they may be. The natural man is in conflict with his Creator, for the Bible says that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). The purpose of the atonement is to bring enemies together, to make friends of those who by nature are in opposition to one another. This could only be done by satisfying the demands of God, who was outraged by man’s transgression, and by removing the cause of the separation of the two parties, God and man. This barrier which separated man from God is sin.
In our former message, we established that the holiness of God is the first reason for the necessity of an atonement. Then, inseparably connected with the holiness of God is the awful fact of sin, which is the exact opposite of holiness. As darkness is to light, as bitter is to sweet, yes, as zero is to infinity, so is sin to holiness. They represent the two poles of absolute conflict. Because God is infinitely holy, He cannot condone even the smallest sin (though there are no small sins, for all sin is great).
To emphasize the awfulness of iniquity in the sight of a holy God, let me take you back to the first sin of the human race. I’m sure you remember the story. God had prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of the fruit of a certain tree, but they had disobeyed. Now, that seems but a little thing, mere petty larceny. They had possibly eaten only one fruit from the forbidden tree. In the estimation of men, and according to current moral standards, that was but a little sin. Did God consider it as such? Listen, so great was that sin in the sight of God that He not only drove man from the garden and imposed the penalty of death upon him and all his offspring, but He also cursed the whole creation. The earth, the birds, the animals, and every creature over which Adam had dominion shared the penalty. God did not wait until man had committed murder before He pronounced the curse. The so-called “little” sin was the occasion of God’s awful penalty and judgment. No sin is minor, even though men may belittle it and call it by another name.
WORLD HATES THE WORD “SIN”
Have you ever noticed that the world has tried desperately to rid itself of even the very word “sin”? This term has almost entirely disappeared from the world’s vocabulary. Take your newspaper or magazine and read all the accounts of violence and theft and murder and immorality, and you will find that the word “sin” is carefully avoided. This is very significant, for it is an attempt, consciously or otherwise, to get rid of the idea of sin. But sin is still sin, and until there is renewed preaching against sin in all its awfulness, in its true nature as a filthy, damning rebellion against a holy God, there will never be a revival. The world will continue getting worse – more rotten and more sinful than ever.
By the grace of God let us lift our voices against sin, not merely as a human weakness, not just as the mistakes of a race trying to climb upward, but as that vicious, selfish factor lying at the root of all man’s troubles. It is a defiance of a thrice holy God and must result in the punishment of the sinner in an eternal hell unless taken care of by the blood atonement of the Son of God. That is why we believe in the efficacy of Christ’s blood, the only God-given remedy for sin.
SIN THE REASON FOR HELL
The failure to realize the true nature of sin also lies at the root of man’s denial of eternal punishment. Men revolt at the idea that a loving God will punish His creatures in an eternal hell. They tell us that God is love and incapable of such cruelty. But all this talk is silenced immediately when we get a true picture of two things: God’s holiness and the awfulness of sin. Sin is not a little thing; it is the cause of every sorrow in the world. It blights lives, breaks homes, obscures reason, slays the body, and damns the soul. Consider its effect in the home, the one institution designed and patterned after the family of heaven, with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect love. Yet the home has been the scene of some of the greatest battles in the world. Because of sin, more hearts are broken and more tears are shed in the home than anywhere else in society.
Sin has also permeated the business world. Think of the crookedness, the graft (i.e., the acquisition of money, gain, or advantage by dishonest, unfair, or illegal means, especially through the abuse of one’s position or influence), the hypocrisy, the ravenous competition, the cutthroat methods, and the greed of those who amass their polluted fortunes at the price of the blood, sweat, and toil of others.
Reflect upon what sin has done to the family of nations. Remember the indescribable horrors of the Second World War, when the whole world of nations engaged in the most awful conflict of all history. Think of the plight of the nations today, their national bankruptcy and their insecurity, the starving widows and orphans, the cries of the wounded and dying, and the hunger and the cold and the starvation. The cause of it all can be summarized in one word: SIN!
EVEN IN CHRISTENDOM
See what sin has done in the realm of religion; even among those who name the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. The very ones who should be examples of love, tolerance, and forbearance are instead generating confusion and chaos. Innumerable cults, sects, classes, creeds, and dogmas have arisen, each despising the others. Fightings, bickerings, and condemnations occur even in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Christ who prayed that we all might be one.
But let us make this more personal. Go with me to yonder hospital and listen for just a moment to the cries and moans of the sick and the suffering – and you will hear the word “sin.” See red eyes wet with tears and think of the bleeding hearts behind those tears as a loved one is carried away. Go with me to the prison and see young lives, blighted and shriveled up with sin, caged like wild animals – and I’ll whisper the reason – “sin.” Follow me now to the mental institution and listen to the unintelligible jargon of those poor, pitiable souls with their aberrated reason and deranged minds, many times because of an act committed by a grandfather when he had his fling – and the very walls seem to murmur, “Sin.”
But leave the confusion of the hospital and the cursing of the prison and slip with me into the darkness to yonder home where the lights still burn late in the night. See that sobbing mother as she stoops over a little crib where lies, cold and pale, that little darling who only a little while ago was vibrant with joy and whose little body throbbed and pulsated with unrestrained life. And now, there it lies in the chill stillness of death – and we hear again the haunting whisper, “Sin.”
But hush! Go with me in the gloaming (twilight; dusk) and follow that young man and the little flaxen-haired maiden at his side. They silently wend their way through the sighing pines along the little gravel path among the city of the dead until they reach a fresh mound of earth. There they tenderly place a bunch of fading flowers upon the grave, and, watering them with scalding tears, they turn away to the loneliness of their little home where mother’s voice will never be heard again. Ah yes, all these experiences cry aloud a message that cannot be forgotten: SIN! SIN! SIN! The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” I challenge you to give me any other reasonable explanation for all this misery and heartache and suffering in the world.
But the result of sin does not even end at the grave. According to the Word of God, the penalty of sin goes on into eternity. You see, sin is not only a transgression against society or an individual, but it is also committed against a righteous, holy God. For the sinner who dies without accepting God’s atonement, there awaits the prospect of an eternal hell. I do not care to describe the Bible picture of the abode of the lost, except to say that Jesus, the gentle Savior, portrays it as a place of outer darkness where the fire is not quenched and the worm never dies.
THE AWFUL PRICE OF SIN
But I hear someone object, saying, “That preacher is altogether too dramatic in his depiction of this subject.” Dramatic? Too dramatic? Is not the whole history of mankind a drama? To be born, to toil, to weep, to laugh, to rejoice, to mourn, to become old, to die – what is this but a grand drama of reality? If you are inclined to think this is too dramatic, then come with me to Calvary and see God’s graphic picture of the awfulness of sin. What does God think of sin? The answer is Calvary, for there you see the price of sin. Calvary is the most awful, the most conclusive proof of the gravity of sin. See what was required to pay its penalty. God hates sin with an indescribable hatred; and Calvary not only reveals God’s love for the sinner but also His hatred for sin. Its penalty must be fully paid. And so, over 1900 years ago, God sent into the world His Son, the Lord Jesus, to pay for sin. Calvary is a picture of SIN; for without it, there would never have been a need for the crucifixion of Christ.
Born of a virgin, Jesus laid aside His glory and walked among men, preaching the holiness of God and the awfulness of sin. Then, as the time for payment drew near, He gathered His little band together and told them the meaning of His coming death. He then led them out into the darkness, across the Brook Kidron and into Gethsemane. There, in desperate loneliness, and among the gnarled old olive trees of the garden as they cast their ominous and eerie shadows in the light of a full Passover moon, the Son of God fell upon His face in agony as God the Father “laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.”
As we reconstruct that scene, we can picture a hand reaching down from heaven holding a cup filled to the very brim, and when the holy Savior looks into that cup, He becomes pale with horror. His body becomes rigid with utter revulsion at what He sees. His eyes stare in wild despair as the great drops of blood ooze from His unbroken skin, and finally He cries out in the anguish of His soul, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39). But the cup remains, and again the cry, and a third time He exclaims:
My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done (Matthew 26:42).
WHAT WAS IN THE CUP?
Don’t pass over the record of Gethsemane hastily. What in all the world could make the Son of God shrink and cry in agony? What was in this cup to make Him plead for deliverance – He who shrank not from the jeering mob, He who feared not those who would slay Him, He who later went without murmur to the cross, to die without complaint? What was this awful thing that made Him cringe and cry out to the Father?
Listen to me. It was sin; your sin and mine. And so He asked of the Father, “Let this cup pass from Me.” “Must I drink that awful thing?” God seems to answer, “No, My Son, You do not have to; but if You don’t, then all will be lost. The only way sinners can be saved is for You to take their sin upon Yourself and carry it to the cross. Sin must be atoned for. There is no other way.” And so, we hear the Savior say, “Thy will be done.” He then raises the bitter cup and takes it to His lips and carries it to Calvary, where the last drop is emptied and the Son of God in the extremity of the agony of hell of your sin and mine cries out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
With the vision of a lost world before Him and the realization of what sin has brought about, He lifts that reeking, stench-filled cup of the world’s sin that WE might be saved. Yes, the need of the blood atonement can best be seen at Calvary, where we realize that Almighty God could not even save His own Son from death because He had taken our sin upon Himself.
“GOD SPARED NOT…”
Notice four things that God could not spare: (1) He spared not the nation of Israel. “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either” (Romans 11:21). The natural branches are Israel, judged because she sinned in rejecting her Messiah and Savior. (2) Then too, God spared not the angels. “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell …” (2 Peter 2:4). Next, we are told that (3) God “did not spare the ancient world, … brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter” (2 Peter 2:5-6). Then the climaxing statement, (4) God “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all…” (Romans 8:32).
What a remarkable statement! Why did God not spare His own Son? Because that Son had taken our sin. After the Father had put sin on Jesus, even He could not spare His own Son. Oh, how God hates sin, and this hatred for sin made necessary the blood atonement. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us. Sin must be punished, even though it be God’s own Son.
Sinner, how do you expect God to spare you if you refuse His atonement for sin and insist on standing before a holy and righteous God without atonement for your sin? Listen to the sobering words of the hymnwriter:
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
3 – The Way Provided
When man sinned, he broke fellowship with his Creator and became separated from the life of God. So complete was this separation and fall that it became utterly impossible for man to find his way back to God again. Unless God does the reconciling, therefore, man will be lost forever. But God is perfect love, and He provided a way whereby the sin question, which alone separated Himself and man, could be taken out of the way. The perfect fellowship of God and man could then be restored.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:23-26).
This plan of redemption, conceived in the heart and mind of God, is called the “atonement” or “reconciliation.” “Atonement” is the Old Testament word, and “reconciliation” is its New Testament counterpart. Strictly speaking, there can be no salvation through atonement alone, but it must be through a perfect reconciliation. The word “atonement” means “to cover for the time being.”
THE ARK OF NOAH
The Hebrew word most commonly translated “atonement” and which most perfectly expresses its biblical meaning is kaphar, which means “to cover.” The word occurs for the first time in Genesis 6:14, where we read God’s instructions for the building of Noah’s ark.
Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch (Genesis 6:14).
It is very interesting and illuminating to note that the word translated “pitch” is the word for atonement. Noah was instructed to “pitch it within and without with pitch.” The words used are kaphar and kophar, the first being the verb and the second the noun. Literally, therefore, we might read this verse as follows: ‘Thou shalt atone it within and without with atonement.”
This gives the Old Testament meaning of atonement. It means “to cover,” and it was designed to keep out the waters of judgment and make Noah safe within. That is what the blood of the atonement in all the Old Testament sacrifices did. It held back the judgment of God from reaching the occupants in the ark, and made them safe in spite of the fact that God was destroying the world outside.
The blood atonement of sacrificial offerings and beasts did not actually take away sin, for the blood of bulls and goats could not effect a reconciliation. The blood of the atonement in the Old Testament, therefore, merely held back the judgment of God until the blood of Jesus, God’s perfect Lamb, was shed. Then the atonement would cease and reconciliation would result. The blood of the Old Testament atonement deferred the judgment until the coming of Christ, the Son of God, and by His death on the cross the penalty for sin was paid.
For this reason, we believe the Old Testament saint was pardoned but not justified. The word “justified” never occurs in the Bible before the cross, and the word “pardon” never occurs after Calvary. The blood of the animal sacrifices merely pointed to the blood of reconciliation and propitiation of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice.
On the basis of the blood of the sacrifices, God was able to forbear the sins of the Old Testament believer, but propitiation was not made and the sins were not actually put away until the blood of Jesus was shed on the cross. This also is the reason the saints of the Old Testament did not go to heaven, but were kept in Sheol-Hades until the cross. When sin had been paid for and reconciliation was made possible, only then could God permit a pardoned and justified sinner into His presence. The blood atonement of the Old Testament, then, merely covered sin while the blood of Jesus took away sin and reconciled God to man.
THE UNIVERSAL NEED FOR ATONEMENT
The need for atonement is not only revealed in Scripture but also is written in the hearts of all the human race. It is entirely consistent with the experience of human nature. Wherever man is found, even without the Bible, he has a conscience that cries for atonement. From the chill, icebound wastes of the poles to the sweltering, torrid, steaming jungles of the tropics, man seeks after an atonement to hush that inner voice of accusation, which is the heritage of all mankind. Missionaries tell us that every tribe they have found in the world attempts to appease the gods for wrongs which man’s own conscience tells him have been committed.
Someone has said, “Man was born with a sense of God and a consciousness of responsibility, and those who deny His existence do so more as a result of wishful thinking than genuine conviction.”
But not only does the entire race believe in a God or gods, whatever form they may take – whether it be a spirit, or a sacred cow, or a serpent, or a river, or a mountain – but there is also the consciousness that this God or these gods are angry with man’s sin, and that an attempt must be made to appease an outraged deity. We see it in our first parents when, after they had sinned, their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked. They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. It crops up again in the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, who brought their offerings unto God as an attempt to atone for their sins. We trace it through all the bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament, where countless hundreds of thousands of animals were slain, year after year and century after century, as the literal rivers of blood flowed in an unbroken stream from the court of the tabernacle and the temple. Yet, all this could only avail as an atonement, for it offered no permanent benefit until the coming of God’s one Substitute, Jesus, to which all these bloody offerings pointed. The hymnwriter expressed it:
Not all the seas of blood
Which flowed until the cross
Could make a single sinner clean,
Or purge him from his dross.
The book of Hebrews puts it in unmistakable language:
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.’ But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Hebrews 10:1-6, 12, 14).
THE UNIVERSAL NEED OF MAN
Now all of that was by revelation of God; but even without the Scriptures through priests and prophets, man would still have sought an atonement. We see this search wherever he is found. This same consciousness of sin and the need for atonement is evident as we watch the poor, blinded, yet intensely earnest father bring his own sons and daughters to the heathen temples and offer them as a fiery sacrifice upon the altars of pagan idols. See that father as he beholds his own son cast into the open, fire-belching maw (i.e., orifice; jaws) of the fire-god Moloch, and as he stops his ears at the cry of agony of his own flesh and blood and turns his horrified eyes from the sight of his son burning to a crisp. Only the irresistible yearning in man’s heart to appease an outraged deity could cause this.
Behold yonder pagan mother as she tears that little suckling babe from her own warm breast and with a cry of utter despair casts it into the river below to feed the crocodiles. Doesn’t she love that baby? Ah yes, as much as you do yours. But she is only yielding to the conviction that the gods must be appeased for the wrongs of her life. See the ascetics as they sleep on boards pierced with nails, eat the scantiest food, brave the cold nakedly, retreat from society, and deny themselves all the pleasures of life. This is simply another expression of the innate, undying consciousness of sin and the need for an atonement.
But all these actions have faded to give peace. All have come short of the goal. You see, God’s school of conscience is designed to teach the futility of man’s efforts to appease a holy God, and to prepare him for the unveiling of the Divine plan – the revelation of the true sacrifice, the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, in the fullness of time, He came to make not merely atonement but propitiation and reconciliation for sin by His own sacrifice. The whole plan is consistent with the experience of the race and the history of mankind. But it is also perfectly consistent with our concept of God.
HIS TWO BASIC ATTRIBUTES
God is revealed to us by His attributes, and they fall into two classes: those which describe His love for the sinner and those which set forth His hatred for sin. In the first group we have God’s love, mercy, and compassion. In the second group we have His holiness, justice, and righteousness. God’s infinite love yearned for and demanded the reconciliation of fallen man. If God were merely perfect love, there would have been no problem at all; for He simply could have overlooked man’s sin and forgotten it, without exacting the penalty of eternal death pronounced upon man’s sin.
As parents, we often do a similar thing with our children. Instead of punishing them, love gets the best of our justice and we just “pass it over.” But that was impossible with God; for, in addition to His perfect love, God is infinitely and perfectly holy, just, and truthful. He had said, “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). This involved more than physical death; it included spiritual death, eternal separation from God. Since God cannot lie, He must carry out the penalty. Man must die and be eternally separated from God.
But God’s love is also infinite and required man’s restoration into fellowship with Him. His holiness and justice still demanded the eternal separation of man because of sin. Here, beloved, is the whole problem of the atonement. If God satisfies His justice and keeps His word, man is lost forever and God’s love is left unrequited. If He saves man without demanding the punishment, then God is a liar, for He had said, “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Someone has called this problem the “heartbreak of God.” If God’s love is satisfied, His justice and truth and holiness are violated. If His justice is satisfied, His love is violated. How can both be satisfied? There is no human solution, no human answer. It transcends all human reason and logic. But God, in addition to being infinite love and infinite justice, is also infinite wisdom. Hallelujah! God found a way!
NEITHER MAN NOR ANGELS COULD ATONE
Man could not pay sin’s penalty. If he did, it would mean eternal separation, and love demands his restoration. Besides, it would take eternity for a man to pay for his own individual sin, and even then he would be unable to pay for anyone but himself. Angels could not do it, for God demands that man pay for man’s sin. But God found the solution. He took the responsibility upon Himself and became man so He could take man’s place. Because He is also infinite God, He could pay the infinite price for sin. Therefore, in the fullness of time, God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, and upon Him was placed man’s guilt and sin. He then bore it to Calvary and suffered the agony of eternal punishment and paid the penalty of death. As man He could substitute for man and as God He could bear the infinite penalty for sin. The Bible says:
All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isaiah 53:6).
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
God is reconciled. He is perfectly satisfied with the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross. Now you can be reconciled to God by accepting His offer and receiving His Son. There is a no more that God or man can do. To refuse His offer of peace and reconciliation is to choose eternal separation instead of eternal fellowship.
The sin question has been settled forever. The only sin that can now condemn you is the sin of NOT BELIEVING on the Lord Jesus Christ. There is today only one unpardonable sin, and that is the sin of refusing God’s salvation. But it is not yet too late. You may still come, as once more we, as ambassadors for Christ, pray you in Christ’s stead, “BE RECONCILED TO GOD.”
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18).
4 – The Sufficiency of the Blood
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Heb. 9:11-14)
In the religious and typical ritual of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, all of the worship centered upon and revolved about the blood of slain animals offered in sacrifice to God. This was because the Lord laid down a principle that no redemption from sin was possible without the shedding of blood. According to the Bible, life is in the blood. And, since the wages of sin is death, the only thing that can abolish death is life. Since the life is in the blood, therefore, the price for sin and the only means of restoring spiritual life is through the shedding of blood.
But this blood must be perfect, sinless, and incorruptible. That is why the blood of a mere human being could not avail, since all human blood is sinful and imperfect. For the same reason, the blood of animals could not avail, for it is also corruptible. There was then only one way to produce the sinless, incorruptible blood of atonement, and that was by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. He laid aside the form of God and took upon Himself our humanity and became a man. In the body of the man Christ Jesus flowed sinless, incorruptible blood – and this was the only blood acceptable to God as the propitiation for sins and the basis of the reconciliation.
Until that perfect blood was shed, however, the Lord made a provision whereby people might be spared from judgment. He instituted the sacrifice of typical offerings – bulls, goats, calves, heifers, pigeons, and doves – whose blood could atone for sin, even though they could not take it away. We have already seen that the word “atonement” means “to cover.” The Old Testament sacrifices served to cover man’s sin. They did not put sin away, nor pay for it, but postponed the penalty, covering it until the time when the perfect blood of Jesus Christ should serve to take it away. This is what Paul teaches in Romans 3:25, discussed in our previous message, and the same thing the writer of Hebrews refers to when he says:
For this reason, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15).
This is again emphasized in the last part of Hebrews 9.
Nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him (Hebrews 9:25-28).
A “BUTCHER SHOP” THEOLOGY?
“But,” says someone, “that is all Old Testament theology. We have long since outgrown that bloody philosophy of redemption. This preaching of the blood of a Substitute is inconsistent with our modern concepts of the dignity of man and the love of God.”
Yes, I know our shallow, falsely cultivated 20th-century theology shudders at the thought of redemption through the blood, and is appalled at the necessity for an innocent one to die for the sin of another. It says, “Away with such preaching of salvation. We know better than that now.” But I submit to you that the teaching of substitutionary atonement and vicarious (mediated) suffering is not only scriptural but entirely in line with all human experience and historic evidences. If we look at life in more than a superficial way, we find that all human progress is built on blood. All progress demands a sacrifice. The price of life is death, and according to Jesus’ words, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone” (John 12:24).
LIFE’S DEMAND OF SACRIFICE
Take the history of the conquest of the seas. As you relax on that mighty ocean liner, which seems to be the apex of safety and luxury, think at what an awful price those comforts have been purchased. Think of the thousands of lives sacrificed in charting the unknown seas and in the industries needed to build that great ship, and men and women lost in the gradual gathering of the scientific, mechanical, and meteorological data which makes travel by ship so safe today. The very sea is dyed a crimson hue with the blood of those who had to lay down their lives to wrest from it the secrets of its whims and power.
Or read once more the history of America, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Were the liberties you and I enjoy today under our Bill of Rights purchased without blood? We know that record only too well. We remember how the early pioneers braved the cruel seas and settled in the wilderness to establish a government where liberty should prevail, and the pathway of that story is strewn with the bodies of men and women who laid down their lives to procure and maintain those liberties for us. There are no blessings without sacrifice; there is no progress without blood. Think of the rivers of blood shed by the martyrs of old as they faced the angry lions in the arena, the pillory (i.e., the stocks), burning at the stake, or the human stretchers, and died for a cause and a principle. They left us a heritage of conviction and hope that cannot be measured in silver and gold.
Think of the progress in the science of medicine and surgery from the crude age of superstition and witchcraft of a few centuries ago to the God-given methods for the relief and the cure of disease in our present day. Read the record of the thousands of men and women, doctors and nurses, laboratory technicians, and willing subjects who were exposed to infection, offering themselves as human guinea pigs to discover the secrets of the control of disease! By their experiments, many gave their lives that others might have life. They died by the hundreds in their search for the prevention and cure of yellow fever, the plague, diphtheria, small pox, and other maladies which only a generation ago decimated whole populations but today pose only a minor threat. This history is one of death and bloodshed for the purpose of conquering needless suffering.
As you in your car today, think of the blood (not dollars) that car cost. Think of all the men who have given their lives in the development of the auto industry. At what cost of life have those sturdy metals which form the frame and motor of your care been wrested from the bowels of the earth? What miners died while digging the ore to make your car that you might ride in luxury? As you ride the train or the plane, look at your ticket carefully, and you will find more than a date upon it. It is all smeared with blood, front and back – the blood of hundreds who lost their lives in the development of the great transportation systems which spiderweb our land and the world. This applies to everything. To make your shoes, a calf had to die. That wool suit you have on is covered with the blood of the garment worker in the woolen mill who died while making the material for your warm and comfortable suit. Nothing is excluded.
THE LESSON IS UNIVERSAL
We might mention every worthwhile object in life. There is no blessing without sacrifice, no life without death, no progress without blood. And all this is for only temporal, transient blessings and benefits. Is it then unreasonable to believe that the greatest blessing of all, eternal life, should be purchased at the greatest price of all, the precious blood of the Son of God? Infidels and scoffers making fun of preachers who preach the blood should hang their heads in shame, for they have overlooked and ignored one of the greatest and most fundamental principles in nature: There is no progress without the shedding of blood!
The idea of the price of blood for everything worthwhile is written in crimson letters across the mottled face of nature, and it is turning the ocean a scarlet red as if to reflect the gorgeous sunrise of the blood atonement. All the highways reek with blood, as if to remind us of that blood-sprinkled way that leads to God.
Yes, my friend, the Bible doctrine of the blood atonement for the sin of man is the most reasonable belief in the world, and it is in perfect harmony with all the experiences of man and the record of history. There is no doubt about it. We can be truly satisfied and confident in this, as the poet reminds us:
It is the blood of Jesus
Alone can set us free,
Salvation by the perfect Christ
Who died upon the tree;
Not as a martyr died,
Of heaven well assured,
But for the sins of all mankind,
The pains of hell endured.
THE ATONEMENT IS SUBSTITUTIONARY
Not only is the blood atonement consistent with the facts of nature, but it is also sufficient and substitutionary, for Christ died in behalf of and in the place of others. Christ was not a martyr who died for a principle or a cause or a conviction, but He died for sinners that they might live. The Bible leaves no doubt about this. Isaiah said, “The LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” John tells us that Christ “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
In large and noble letters, the story of vicarious suffering is written also on the pages of history. Dying for others is the highest expression of love known in the world today. See the almost unthinkable tenacity of love with which a mother watches by the crib of her babe. For days she waits upon that darling, cooling the fevered brow and ministering to every need, while she breathes fervent prayers for its recovery. All night long the rest of the family is asleep, but she waits and wakes and watches. Then, as the child recovers, the mother succumbs from exhaustion and the strain, to linger awhile and then to fade and die. This, my friend, is vicarious suffering, but it was to save a loved one, and only one person. Think of the vicarious suffering of the One who gave His life, not only for a friend but for His enemies; He gave His life that they might have life, not just physical life but eternal life.
M.R. DeHaan, M.D., Radio Bible Class, 1974
Edited by Campus Christians